Civic participation can dramatically increase both the resources available to support young people’s education, and community action carried out by children and young people themselves. The hours spent in the classroom are only part of the story of children’s educational attainment. Teachers, facing ever increasing demands, cannot and shouldn’t be expected to do everything. To add to the breadth and depth of education available to school children we need to leverage community resources.
Increasing civic participation would open up a rich supply of community-held knowledge that could complement classroom learning, offering diverse expertise and knowledge that cannot be easily captured in traditional education models. It would also help inspire future generations of digital makers. As Nesta’s Young Digital Makers report argues, we need to mobilise volunteers across England to help children learn how to use technology to shape the world around them.
There is strong evidence to support greater community involvement in the services and support provided to children. For instance, the impact of one-to-one and small group tutoring on student performance has been demonstrated by initiatives such as the Access Project. Currently provision can be patchy, and we should aspire for all areas to benefit from the knowledge held by communities. This demands a rapid increase in the rate at which we scale up mentoring and tutoring initiatives.
At the same time, the school years are a pivotal period for children to start engaging in civic participation. By ramping up efforts to encourage children and young people to volunteer in their local communities we can create immediate benefits and make civic participation part of the DNA of future generations.
1. Establish an expanded National Citizenship Service by the end of the next parliament, including opportunities for annual placements.
2. Pay a ‘Social Action Premium’ to schools to catalyse community participation in the education and development of children and young people.
3. Ensure every Head Teacher can access tried and tested volunteer run mentoring and tutoring schemes by launching a new fund to assist new and existing programmes to scale up.
4. Trial the use of ‘Future Credits’, a scheme to incentivise volunteering during school years with rewards later in life, such as student loan repayments, similar to the US AmeriCorps Segal Education Award scheme.